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Chickens sleeping in the rain - should I worry?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by jpfenimore, Nov 12, 2014.

  1. jpfenimore

    jpfenimore Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 26, 2014
    La Honda, California
    Hi -

    I'm hoping you all can help with the following...

    Our four girls' home is "Fort Chicken," which is basically a big cage along with an adjacent open run to the right. (see pic)

    The girls recently outgrew their original coop (the little house in the center of the fort) and three out of four of them have been choosing to sleep on the roosts that you see on the right. This area is exposed on all but one side and the top, but we've left them alone there because the weather here in Northern California has been so mild.

    But now it is finally supposed to rain, and I assume it is unhealthy for the girls to sleep unprotected (is it?), so I would like to get them to sleep on the roosts on the left side of the fort, which provides shelter on 3 sides and the top. When we took out the other roosts, they all went back into the little house and fought badly (drawing blood). Don't let anyone convince you this coop is big enough for 4 chickens!

    Should I just remove all other options? I can try to physically move three of them to the other roosts, but when I try to get the fourth out of the little house to move her, she gets really mad! I'd really like to make whatever I do next my last change for them as I think I am really stressing them out with all the changes.

    Thanks in advance for any advice!

    best,
    Jamie
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2014
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Depends on the ambient temperature where you are, as well as their health. If the rain beads up and rolls off their backs, they're fine, provided you don't get snap-freezes, heavy frosts or snow or sleet. If they soak instead then no, they will not be fine. Ability to defend against rainy weather depends a lot on diet and partly on genetics. A cold-pressed olive oil sandwich on a regular (say, weekly) basis, for example, will assist a lot with overall health, even more so if you add cayenne or similar.

    If they fight badly and draw blood, it's not the cage's fault. They're an aggressive line. You get gentle, nonaggressive family lines just as you get mutilators and killers.

    The best time to move them is at night and when retraining them to sleep somewhere, you often will have to move them every night for a week before they bond to the new location.

    Best wishes.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. jpfenimore

    jpfenimore Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 26, 2014
    La Honda, California
    Thanks Chooks. This is helpful. We moved them last night with only a little resistance. We also removed their other options this morning so we'll see where they go tonight. I guess whether they need it or not, I'm more comfortable with them sleeping in a sheltered area. Peace of mind. Thanks too for the tip re the olive oil sandwich!
     
  4. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    You're welcome, I hope it helps.

    Their cage looks very nice, very secure, but perhaps could do with some obstacles, things to climb and go under and around; this will help break the bullying pattern of behavior if it starts, and give them exercise and entertainment. Not too easy with limited space, but worth doing. Sometimes it's as simple as putting a stool in there!

    In researching animal welfare, studies found zoos with 'L' shaped cages, or just cages with corners that the animals could not see around without walking around, really did a lot for their quality of life and reducing frustrated behaviors. The cage could be a box shape but with solid obstacles they couldn't see past, it gave them something new to explore, something to wonder about.

    Being able to see all four corners of the cage is boring and bored chooks can become nasty, especially if they're already predisposed to it.

    In fact, when selecting against violent traits in my flock, I found locking them up for a day would help me spot the nasty ones, because the girls that vocally complained the most were always those who not only eventually took their frustration out physically on other birds, but also produced more violent offspring. I did behavior testing for years. Now I've got a quite nice flock, thankfully.

    Best wishes.
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. jpfenimore

    jpfenimore Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 26, 2014
    La Honda, California
    Thank you for sharing your research, Chooks! It is very helpful.

    Most of the time, the girls have a very spacious L-shaped run to explore with chairs, trees, shrubs (most of which they have eaten!), etc. I get a kick out of finding them hiding here and there from time to time. Yesterday when I went out, I couldn't find them for a few minutes, but then they all came out from behind a big oak tree in a corner looking like they had been up to no good back there! (like kids playing naughty in a closet!) All that said, what you are saying sounds like good advice. We'll put their obstacles back up in the cage anyway once they've gotten used to sleeping in the sheltered area (which is around a corner). [​IMG]

    It's just one girl who seems to be a meanie, though. A Brown Leghorn named Mary Ann. She's only drawn blood once about 6 weeks ago, but we are keeping an eye on her. Getting them out of that little coop has helped, but up until last night, she still would not share the top roost with anyone even though it is 4 feet long! I suspect all of this is just that they are still establishing their pecking order, but as someone who is hyper-sensitive to human bullying I have a really hard time watching it and just letting them sort things out on their own. Last night though, all four girls snuggled up together on the top roost so I hope this is a sign they are settling down. It was the top girl in the pecking order who was still sleeping in the house before we changed things up. I wonder if now that she is sleeping in the same space with the other 3 if she's putting Mary Ann in her place? I hope so. She's a super-sweet Buff Orpington named Ethel. She only pecks at the others when she really needs to. And one peck stops them in their tracks! Love her. [​IMG]
     
  6. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    1 person likes this.
  7. jpfenimore

    jpfenimore Out Of The Brooder

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    La Honda, California
    Thanks much, Chooks! Your posts and insights are always so helpful!
     
  8. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Thanks. Give it a few months and you'll be amazing me with your insights. :D

    There's so much to learn, no matter how much you learn about chooks it's not uncommon for even a newbie to know something you haven't heard of before. I'm actually a fair bit of a newbie myself, lol!

    Best wishes.
     
  9. jpfenimore

    jpfenimore Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 26, 2014
    La Honda, California
    Thought you might like to hear that they have almost settled in with their new home. There has been quite a bit of drama over the past week and my dumbest blonde Lucy still runs around a bit confused at dusk, but tonight they are sleeping on the same roost in the sheltered area. [​IMG]
     
  10. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    Thanks for the update, it is always good to hear what worked.

    Best wishes.
     

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